Sequential reductive and oxidative biodegradation of chloroethenes stimulated in a coupled bio-electro-process

S. T. Lohner, D. Becker, K.-M. Mangold, A. Tiehm

Environmental Science and Technology, 2011, 45, 6491-6497 doi: 10.1021/es200801r


This article for the first time demonstrates successful application of electrochemical processes to stimulate sequential reductive/oxidative microbial degradation of perchloroethene (PCE) in mineral medium and in contaminated groundwater. In a flow-through column system, hydrogen generation at the cathode supported reductive dechlorination of PCE to cis-dichloroethene (cDCE), vinyl chloride (VC), and ethene (ETH). Electrolytically generated oxygen at the anode allowed subsequent oxidative degradation of the lower chlorinated metabolites. Aerobic cometabolic degradation of cDCE proved to be the bottleneck for complete metabolite elimination. Total removal of chloroethenes was demonstrated for a PCE load of approximately 1.5 μmol/d. In mineral medium, long-term operation with stainless steel electrodes was demonstrated for more than 300 days. In contaminated groundwater, corrosion of the stainless steel anode occurred, whereas DSA (dimensionally stable anodes) proved to be stable. Precipitation of calcareous deposits was observed at the cathode, resulting in a higher voltage demand and reduced dechlorination activity. With DSA and groundwater from a contaminated site, complete degradation of chloroethenes in groundwater was obtained for two months thus demonstrating the feasibility of the sequential bioelectro-approach for field application.

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